controversy: gandhi biography COMMENTS
There was more complexity to the Mahatma than a simple reading of his correspondence would suggest

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Daily Mail
Apr 25, 2011
Great Soul, Period

What more has Joseph Lelyveld (Picture of Gandhian Grey, Apr 11) to say than what the Mahatma himself has already told the world?

K.J. John, Baroda

It’s really none of anyone’s business what Gandhi and Kallenbach may or may not have done behind closed doors. Prima facie, however, from Gandhi’s correspondence with Kallenbach, it seems the Mahatma was emotionally, if not actively, a homosexual. But then, as with other aspects of his life, he never tried to hide this.

Vidyadhar Madhusudan, Bangalore

If Gandhi’s homosexuality were a fact, I’m sure the British would have used it then to slander him.

Ram, on e-mail

Banning the book on Gandhi is the last thing a democracy should do. Frankly, most of us wouldn’t care what Gandhi’s sexual orientation was; to lots of us, he still will remain a great man.

Mehul Dabhi, Paris

It’s easy to get an impression from the controversy that Lelyveld’s book deals only with Gandhi’s sexuality. This is thanks in part to a review in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Roberts, a Churchill biographer and Gandhi-hater. The review focused only on the sexuality angle in the new book. Idiots that our Indian netas are, they too have focused only on that.

Srinivas Ramdas Sundar, Austin, Texas

Engagement with the issue of sex was at the heart of Gandhiji’s spiritual evolution, beginning with his feelings of guilt at having been with his wife while his father was dying. The study of his attitude towards male friends is a natural constituent of any research on his life.

Sunil Kumar, Delhi

Gandhi is a legend, and all legends have their weaknesses, sexual and otherwise. Let us not respond emotionally to what is being made out as a controversy.

H.R.V. Goud, Bangalore

It’s unfortunate that Gandhi and Kallenbach’s innocent writings have been twisted and quoted in a way so as to show them as homosexual or bisexual.

Shanmugam, on e-mail

Let’s talk of the sex lives of the living; that of the dead is boring.

C.P. Narendran, Nagpur

May 02, 2011
Can The Ban

By banning a book on the Mahatma we have once again proved to the world how little confidence we have in our national icons (Picture of Gandhian Grey, April 11). Narendra Modi, however, has done a great favour to Mr Lelyveld. His book could become a bestseller yet.

S. Jafri, Lakhimpur kheri
Apr 02, 2011
02:16 PM

Why such focus on Gandhi's sex life? To sell a book? Freedom of expression, just like all other freedoms, is not absolute. It comes with responsibility. And responsibility is a not a concept that is recognisable to the greedy free marketeers whose sole value in life is making money.

I am normally against banning books, but on this occasion I believe it is the right thing to do.

This is just a cheap stunt to throw some mud onto Gandhi's character (debate about his supposed  'sex life' is utterly irrelevant to his contribution to the human race) in order to earn a few despicable dollars. We can not allow the so called 'freedom of expression' to be abused in this way.

Pradip Singh
stafford, uk
Apr 02, 2011
03:53 PM

Banning the book is not a solution.There are many books written on Gandhi with explicit,candid sexual encounter(including Bi-sexual,homosexual)incidence in his life.


Nanded, India
Apr 02, 2011
04:52 PM

It is very unfortunate that a man's innocent writings have been interpreted in the most obscene way. I don't agree with Gandhi on many things, but to suggest he is homosexual or bisexual is an unnecessary attempt at sensationalism, just like Poonam Pandey's offer to strip before the Indian team.

Even today in India friends who live in the same house sleep in the same bed, live in the same room and walk with their hands together wearing a pink shirt, innocently. Nobody even knows that these are taken as suggesting homosexuality in the West. Even me when I first went to the United States was saved from embarassment only when my friends alerted me against wearing a pink shirt which I had purchased new in India. Apartment owners refuse to let a single bedroom house to 2 men saying they should only live in seperate bedrooms and get a double bedroom house.

The West with its dirty fantasies and contempt for other civilizations is now trying to force its crazy thoughts again on India just like they forced Victorian morality long ago.

Chennai, India
Apr 02, 2011
06:35 PM

Gandhi is a legend in the history. every person have his own weaknesses which couldnot be traced during his life time.It is all about  sex life, a fine peice of interesting information. All big leaders are sex perverted in their lives but it is not possible  unless the other sex partner is interested to reveal. Now the story is developed to the reference  of some letter correspondence   it is to better to ignore rather than to respond emotionally  

h r veera na goud
Apr 02, 2011
09:45 PM

Let us talk about sex-life of living personalities.That of dead people is thoroughly boring.

c p narendran
nagpur, india
Apr 03, 2011
01:32 AM

To Pradeep Singh and others:

It is wrong to say the book "focuses" on Gandhi's sex-life.  It _is_ correct to say the book does not omit it altogether, as it is (in the author's opinion) a part of the overall picture of a complex but great soul.

It is easy to get the impression from the controversy that the book deals exclusively with Gandhiji's sex-life (or rather, his non-sex life).  To believe that is to play directly into the mischief caused by one review in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Roberts (a Churchill biographer and a confirmed Gandhi-hater) that distorted the book completely out of shape by focusing on the parts that focus on these salacious-sounding details.  

That review picked up on all the parts of the book that would make people who would like nothing else than to demean the Mahatma and made it seem like that represented the whole of what the Mahatma was.  Idiots that our Indian netas are, they have fallen completely into the trap by reacting to it in exactly the way that Gandhiji detractors (the many apologists for Imperialism) would like them to.

Srinivas Ramdas Sunder
Austin, Texas, USA
Apr 03, 2011
01:39 AM

Lelyveld is the most naiive and unimaginative person ever born if he thinks that the vaseline referred to in Gandhi's letters had only something to do with enemas or massage.

Hyderabad, India
Apr 03, 2011
12:09 PM

Apart from calling it a very intimate friendship of a very effusive and expressive man, it would be a mistake to reach any conclusions about this 100 year old relationship. I agree with Kakar who says, "It was the combination of his fearlessness, lack of inhibition and his ability to be truly himself."

Dallas, United States
Apr 03, 2011
12:12 PM

A few questions one would like to pose to the ladies and gentlemen who are against banning books such as the one by Lelyveld's book on Gandhi is :

Would the same principle (being against banning books however blasphemous it is) be followed if it is a book on revered prophets of religions such as say Judaism (Moses), Christianity (Jesus Christ) or Islam (Prophet Muhammed) ?

Would the same principle (being agianst ban in the interest of freedom of expression) be followed, if it is a book on revered political leaders of the establishment such as Sonia Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru or on revered business leaders and captains of industry such as the Ambanis?

If freedom of expression is central to a civilized world, why is that media houses including our venerable Outlook indulge in censorship? Why is that Outlook routinely indulge in censoring comments that it does not like? And to be fair, Outlook is not the only one doing it, we have the overrated, glamourised media house such as Hindu do it often too. Why have this kind of censorship?

And finally, why dont Indian Media Houses be more transparent and announce the complete details of the ownership structure and the financial details (balance sheet, subsidary business interests and P&L accounts) of all their operations? How about having an independent third party audit of same? How about insisting that all individual journalists who contribute to articles announce their own personal financial asset details so that the readers get the correct perspective of the writer's own personal interest in proposing a particular principle. Let us say we find a writer who is stating that a particular book (say on some BJP politician) is engaging . It is plausible that the writer has a personal interest in pushing for the book . The readers will surely need to know what is the reason behind his recommendation. But will Indian Media stand up and do a voluntary disclosure of all such details?

And for those who are suggesting  - "Please dont ban the book, discuss it". Yes, discussion is the better option. How about answering some of the questions posed above, if you really believe in "DISCUSSION"?

Delhi, India
Apr 04, 2011
04:07 PM

Banning the book is the last thing any democratic country should do ! But iguess our political class doens not want the youth of India to develope that 'critical thinking' skills! They see that as the threat to their ani democratic work. Particularly state like Gujarat has demonstatrated that how the truth can be controlled by the state.

I guess if we rae judging the relationship of Gandhi with the man with the current reality we would be making a big mistake!  I feel the danger is that how the debate is going forward. it appears that having an intimate relationship between two man are ' Wrong ' and 'unacceptable' in indian society. Which is anything but far from the truth. If we look into our historical events we will see many exapmles of such intimate relations.To me it doesnt matter what kind of sexual orientaion Gandhi had. I will still respect him for his contribution towards the freedom struggle of ' India' But when it comes to the freedom of marginalised and poor of our country his contribution remains questionable and doubtful.

Mehul Dabhi
Paris, France
Apr 04, 2011
05:28 PM

You do not know exactly who Gandhi was. He was promoted by a very Pro-British Sir GK Gokhale, who was opposed to the Swadesi movement, opposed to the freedom movement. Gandhi came back to India to sabotage the freedom movement. He has expelled every other leaders from The Congress and within 5 years became the Dictator of The Congress. He used to insult the revolutionaries; expelled even Netaji Subhas; never supported any mass movement like 1942 uprising or 1946 revolt of the Indian Navy. He was glad to partition India between two parties Muslim League and The Congress, but forgot all about the people who were murdered, raped, and became destitute.
He should be considered as the most cruel selhish pro-British pro-Muslim enemy of the people of India.

Victoria Miroshnik
Moscow, Russia
Apr 04, 2011
08:45 PM

Lelyveld wrote on Gandhiji to make money and  cheap publicity.Those who know Gandhiji`s open mindness his courage to tell the truth they never give any importance to this book.Mody ban this book to gain respect of Gujrathi people.He is fool baning book he icreasing sell of book giving publicity to writer. 

Ramesh Raghuvanshi
pune, India
Apr 05, 2011
12:06 AM

What more Lelyveld is trying to reveal than what the Mahatma had already written about himself? What way the so called revelation is concerned with India’s freedom struggle?  What relevance it has got today in the Indian context? And we are on our way to acknowledge his dirty work by banning it!

K.J. John
Baroda, India
Apr 05, 2011
05:19 PM

 Is it  humdrum curosity or desire to look into lingerie drawers? Mahatma Gandhi is looked upon as 5-yard clothed in humble khadi a man physically frail enough to be blown away by winds but with grit to blow away like a blade of grass might British  Colonial Empire. While everyone seems to debate Gandhi's personal proclivities, there is a bomb-shell of an event that has not deserved the attention of our media. 

All fight and struggle of Gandhi  and Indians against Brtish Colonists may seem to be undone. Niall Ferguson the author of Civilization:West and the Rest justifies subjgation of India by British racists, colonists. Gandhi is undone by him!! When words copulate with words they produce more words and a ‘factual’ but non-fecund history. But the history so encamped often leaves out the moral questions of righteousness and the ‘historian’ assumes that material winner is morally right for it is said ‘victory itself is its own legitimacy.’ I rebut lock stock and barrel Niall Ferguson’s book for presenting a fabric of fabrication. I quote but little from my book ‘Mona Lisa does not smile anymore’(ISBN 978-81-8465-512-4)
“The voyages of exploration were the dawn of Racialism and Colonialism. In the year 1600, the Indian economy amounted to 22.54 per cent of the world GDP, while Britain and Western Europe’s combined economies amounted to 21.82 per cent. By 1870, India’s share was down to 12.25 per cent, while in Western Europe it increased to 32.71%. At its prosperous best Mughal Empire produced 24.5% of world GDP in the year 1700. By the time British colonists occupied India and other nations their GDP rose to 23.8% of the world in 1870.” (page 137)
“If I had to choose between an erudite Aristotle and an unknown ‘soulless’ black slave I would choose the latter. The ascendancy of the West was on a heap of bodies of slaves and trampled humanity through colonization.” (page 135).In Dresden as I stood in front of Otto Dix Triptych War, I could see the futility of the great ascent of the West in the hanging flesh from dead putrefied soldiers. Do not forget the ascent of the West culminated in 70 million dead. No Mr. Ferguson we do not desire such ascent either for West or East for that matter to humanity in general. The Indians need to focus on the rants of Ferguson who wants to undo democracy, equality, humanity and bring back to world slavery and colonialism, Gandhi successfully fought against.

Delhi, India
Apr 05, 2011
07:13 PM

 I await further books and reviews on the following aspects of Gandhi's life:

1. His ambigous relationship with goats.

2. His fascination with his own waste products.

3. His insistence on flushing the waste from his female disciple's intestines, with non-violent enemas.

4. Perhaps some Necrophilia.

5. Drinking red liquids from skull-shaped bowls.

6. Having dreams in pink colours, with naked saffron images of sexy hindu goddesses.

7. Any references to male genitalia in his review of the Bhagavad Geetha.

All this will sell well, show how open modern men and women are, and generate clicks and advertisements on websites like Outlook online.

On second thought, forget it. I AM ashamed to have thought of it.

Tearful Onion
Jhumri Talaiyya, India
Apr 06, 2011
08:45 AM

What happens behind closed doors, while two individuals are inside, nobody can tell. But if the letters exchanged between Gandhi and Kallenback are considered, prima facia, Gandhi seems to be homosexual, atleast emotionally if not physically, and he may had his own reasons for not reveling it in his autobiography but considering that he wrote those letters to  Kallenback, it seems to me that he did not tried to hide his gay behaviour,  because, he must have known that anyday the letters could be published and inspite of knowing that he still wrote those letters.

vidyadhar Madhusudan
Bangalore, India
Apr 06, 2011
10:27 AM

I am sure Brits would have used this if it were true and tarnished Mahathma's image in the minds of general public. Things that British secret services did not know this guy seems to be knowing more! 

Cheap publicity stunt to gain popularity for this pultziar bs.

Kerela, India
Apr 06, 2011
01:14 PM

 If only ( a lot of male ) politicians of his time, knew about his weakness :)

Male Unblocked
Chennai, India
Apr 06, 2011
01:18 PM

 next topic for this rubbish author would be ,gandhi's size of dhoti and show off of masculinity. 

chootiye chale gaye,chaman chhord gaye.

-and why outlook is noticing these garbage bookwallah.

delhi, India
Apr 06, 2011
04:39 PM

Engagement with the issue of sex is at the heart of Gandhi's evolution as a spirirtual leader.In his autobiography ''The story experiments with truth'', he makes it quite clear that he felt ashamed in failing to be by the bedside of his dying father in his last moments as he was seeking  sexual pleaure in his wife.He regrets being bilnded by animal passion.This event of his life led him to contemplate on sex.It began his lifelong duel with the subject.It is  well known that later in his life he took vow to abstain from sex.He challenged himself by remaining in the company of  his female companions.The study of his sexual attitude towards his male friends is a natural constituent of any research on him.He experimented with sex throughout life.The academic exploration of this facet of his personality will only be a valuable contribution to existing literature.It is not sane to rubbish the new book arguing that it is contemptuous of Gandhi.Gandhi would have not approved of it.He was constantly at war with himself.Emotion must not blank out genuine investigation in the life of a great leader.

sunil kumar
delhi, India
Apr 06, 2011
09:16 PM

Gandhi's life is in the eyes of the beholder. 

1. Chauri Chaura

"I wish to endorse all the blame that the learned Advocate-General has thrown on my shoulders in connection with the Bombay occurrences, Madras occurrences and the Chauri Chaura occurrences. Thinking over these things deeply and sleeping over them night after night, it is impossible for me to dissociate myself from the diabolical crimes of Chauri Chaura or the mad outrages of Bombay. He is quite right when he says, that as a man of responsibility, a man having received a fair share of education, having had a fair share of experience of this world, I should have known the consequences of every one of my acts. I know them. I knew that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk and if I was set free I would still do the same. I have felt it this morning that I would have failed in my duty, if I did not say what I said here just now.

I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am deeply sorry for it and I am, therefore, here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest penalty. I do not ask for mercy. I do not plead any extending act. I am here, therefore, to invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen."

He wrote an essay titled The Crime of Chauri Chaura in which he hoped "that the workers in Gorakhpur district would leave no stone unturned to find out the evil-doers and urge them to deliver themselves into custody." The sessions judge of Gorakhpur passed the death sentence on each and every proven member of the violent crowd. 

2. Himalayan Blunder

In 1920, after the British army massacred 400 unarmed demonstrators, Gandhi organized a nation-wide Satyagraha which used non-cooperation techniques as well as public demonstrations. Although this nation-wide strike hit the British hard, and led to thousands of Indians being jailed, in 1922 it erupted into violence. A mob of “Satyagrahis” lit fire to a police station, killing two dozen police officers trapped inside. Gandhi called off the entire Satyagraha and apologized for his “Himalayan blunder”; he had mistakenly believed that his followers truly understood non-violence.

3. Jallianwallah Bagh

"I do not wish ill to Gen. Dyer in any way... I have not the least desire to see him punished, were he to fall ill, I would nurse him with love. But I certainly would not have share in his sin."

"I do not know within the whole of my public experience a single occasion where my presence has had anything but a soothing effect on the elements of disturbance"

4. Noakhali

Both the communities had suffered during the riots.In muslim majority Bengal and Punjab provinces,Hindus and sikhs were at the receiving end, whereas in Bihar Muslims suffered the most. Madness prevailed in riot hit areas.The then Indian government had little expertise or sources to control the wide spread riots fueled by large scale migration and eviction. Gandhi did the best he could by undertaking peace missions to riot hit areas in order 'to put a pot of water over the raging fire that was burning'.He was successful in establishing peace at Calcutta and later in Delhi.

He walked barefooted village after village in Noakhali district of East Bengal, in a hostile atmosphere created by riots and made the people to take a pledge not to kill others. Where were those champions of Hindus who wanted them to retaliate? In Noakhali muslim peasants constituted about 80% of the population?What would retaliation result in any such case?What if more madness and chain of reactions in other regions culminated in a civil war like situation at the very onset of Indian independence?

5. Champaran & Kheda

Without food and without money, the situation was growing progressively unlivable and the peasants in Champaran revolted against indigo cultivation in 1914 (at Pipra) and 1916(Turkaulia) and Raj Kumar Shukla took Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran and the Champaran Satyagraha began.

After analyzing the Satyagraha, enunciated by Gandhi, that there were some philosophical bases of Gandhian Movement. The word, Satyagarha itself indicate that Agraha (request) for Satya (truth) means struggle for truth, here “Truth” because the “Goal”. To achieving that Goal, people with struggle for mass, self independent. For the purpose of humans ultimate freedom.

Kheda, Gujarat

In Kheda, a district of villages and small towns in Gujarat, the peasants mostly owned their own lands, and were economically better-off than their compatriots in Bihar, although on the whole, the district was plagued by poverty, scant resources, the social evils of alcoholism and untouchability, and overall British indifference and hegemony.

However, a terrible famine had struck the district and a large part of Gujarat, and virtually destroyed the agrarian economy. The poor peasants had barely enough to feed themselves, but the British government of the Bombay Presidency insisted that the farmers not only pay full taxes, but also pay the 23% increase stated to take effect that very year.

“Non-violence” and peaceful agitation, were the another philosophical tool to struggle for truth. Now violence, cover a wide expansion which include avoiding violence of all kinds like, voice, actions and thinking or mental violence , not to how any one , physically, mentally or with action attack on the human rule for purification of save, not to look only human body. “Moral and Ethical “purification and upliftment must be the ultimate goal of Satyagraha.

6. Loin Cloth.

"Mr. Winston Churchill has denounced me as 'a half-naked, seditious fakir,' " observed Mahandas Karamchand Gandhi, nine-tenths-naked at Calcutta last week. "It has become the fashion to laugh at my loin cloth. I would like to explain what it means to me and why I wear it.

"Ten years ago I was working in Madura urging some of my countrymen to clothe themselves in khadder [native homespun]. But these people, who were sympathetic, all replied: 'We are too poor to buy khadder; it is too dear.' Then for the first time I seemed to see the difference between them and me.

"I had on my cap, vest and full dhoti [three-foot-wide loin cloth]. My hearers wore only a strip of cloth about four inches wide. I saw that where my clothing uttered only a partial truth of the poverty of India, these millions, compulsorily naked save for their narrow langotis, gave through their bare limbs the starkest truth.

"What effective answer could I give them unless I too divested myself of every bit of clothing with which I could decently dispense and put myself to a still greater extent in harmony with the ill-clad masses? I adopted the small dhoti [two-foot-wide loin cloth] then and there, and I have worn it ever since.

"Millions of Indians," concluded Mr. Gandhi sternly, "own nothing in the world but that little strip of cloth which preserves them from disgrace. I am not leading a 'back to the loin cloth' movement. We have been in these straits ever since the British have ruled India.
"In London, if I am invited to visit His Majesty the King Emperor, I will wear nothing more than that which is the symbol of India's distress—the loin cloth."

But all this is too boring for the biographers with books to sell to the large Indian reader-mass - and eager muck-rakers like Sheela Reddy. This DOES NOT SELL. Advanced word-play masks the things they are interested in - sex, imagined and unproved  "homoeroticism" and pornography-as-analysis. 

Jhansi, India
Apr 09, 2011
02:24 PM

Kudos, Pitamber!

The facts culled by you are an overwhelming demonstration of what Gandhi accomplished without any resort to force or guile. He truly was the epitome of political greatness of the 20th century.

He did not wear his virtuosity on his sleeve. In spite of the innumerable biographies that his various foibles have spawned, there is this one failing of his that stands out on every such occasion in solitary splendour - a total lack of sefl-deception - which, alas, is the only 'virtue' that the modern politician posseses. 

No one, least of all the Mahatma himself, would ever approve of banning the book, however unflattering, or any discussion on the subject,however damaging. Yet, what jars you as 'muck-raking' would pass for clever marketing ploy among the business savvy.

sarvesh srivastava
Gurgaon, India


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